UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE LASER SCANNING FOR EROSION MONITORING IN ALPINE GRASSLAND
Keywords: Topographic LiDAR, UAV, Accuracy, Change Detection, Object-based Analysis, Geomorphology
Abstract. With this contribution we assess the potential of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) based laser scanning for monitoring shallow erosion in Alpine grassland. A 3D point cloud has been acquired by unmanned aerial vehicle laser scanning (ULS) at a test site in the subalpine/alpine elevation zone of the Dolomites (South Tyrol, Italy). To assess its accuracy, this point cloud is compared with (i) differential global navigation satellite system (GNSS) reference measurements and (ii) a terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) point cloud. The ULS point cloud and an airborne laser scanning (ALS) point cloud are rasterized into digital surface models (DSMs) and, as a proof-of-concept for erosion quantification, we calculate the elevation difference between the ULS DSM from 2018 and the ALS DSM from 2010. For contiguous spatial objects of elevation change, the volumetric difference is calculated and a land cover class (bare earth, grassland, trees), derived from the ULS reflectance and RGB colour, is assigned to each change object. In this test, the accuracy and density of the ALS point cloud is mainly limiting the detection of geomorphological changes. Nevertheless, the plausibility of the results is confirmed by geomorphological interpretation and documentation in the field. A total eroded volume of 672 m3 is estimated for the test site (48 ha). Such volumetric estimates of erosion over multiple years are a key information for improving sustainable soil management. Based on this proof-of-concept and the accuracy analysis, we conclude that repeated ULS campaigns are a well-suited tool for erosion monitoring in Alpine grassland.